We were warned about blogging about BAP, because it would be unfair to blog about the experiences of others. This blog might therefore end up sounding like I was the only candidate there. I wasn’t! But other than some general comments, I won’t say anything about others who were there. Also, the blog will (obviously!) be a reflection on my experiences – others who go to BAP may feel completely differently about every aspect! Sorry, but this is a bit of a long post…
The broad reflection to begin with is that I thought BAP was very good. Of course it was a nerve-wracking process, but the advisers and other candidates made it a very positive experience.
BAP started on Monday afternoon (arrive mid-afternoon ish) and went on until Wednesday at about 4:00. The initial briefing took us through the plan of action and we were all given our interview times. Mine ended up suiting me perfectly 🙂
One of the things we were told in that first session was that they (the advisers/panel secretary etc.) wanted us to leave the BAP feeling that we had been listened to. That was certainly true in my case. I felt that the advisers had prepared extremely carefully and that they knew as much about me as humanly possible from my own paperwork and the references that had been sent in. This put me at ease, because it felt like they were working to know and understand me (let’s face it – I’m offering the real me for ordination, so they need to know what they’re getting!). It was also made very clear that this is not a competitive process. Unlike things like The Apprentice and X Factor, the job does not go to the last man or woman standing. Each of us was exploring a calling, and in each case, it was that calling that was being examined and probed and tested. There was not a quota to be filled. It might be that all 15 of us were recommended, but equally all 15 could be not recommended. It is a case-by-case basis. It was also clarified/confirmed that this Panel was recommending us for training, NOT for ordination. If we were recommended for training, the decisions about whether we were recommended for ordination would come during the training process.
That first afternoon, we had to do a ‘Personal Inventory’. This was three pages of questions, related to the nine criteria. Not something you can really prepare for (and they didn’t want us to, in a sense. It was supposed to be our initial responses to the questions, not carefully crafted, eloquent responses). It was fine. Just a case of leaving yourself plenty of time for each bit. You could skip around the questions if that was easier than doing them in order, so long as you didn’t miss any out! These would be used in the interview process.
That first evening (I forget precisely what stage it was at, but it may well have been in the first meeting!) we were also given our ‘Pastoral Exercise’ (No, nothing to do with the Grapevine Squat). We were presented with a pastoral issue, and had up to 500 words to address it. In our case (I won’t say too much about it – it’s a bit like Mousetrap – sworn to secrecy and all that) we had to write to a young person who’d made a mistake (although she didn’t really accept it was a mistake … yet). Having worked with a bazillion young people, I felt comfortable with the concept. However, I think I might have slightly cheated in that I asked in my email (yes, we’re all 20th century now – it didn’t have to be a letter!) to meet up with Sally, because simply responding in writing wasn’t going to cut it, in my opinion. I did find myself almost praying for Sally on that first night, which was a bit of a weird position to find myself in. I stopped myself from praying for her, and decided to pray about how to respond instead, given she wasn’t a real person and therefore wouldn’t much benefit from my prayers (but the task was a real exercise and therefore it would benefit from prayer!).
The next morning was presentation and discussion time. Each of us (8 in my group) had (up to) five minutes to do a presentation and then we had to facilitate a discussion on the presentation for 13 minutes. We went into the room and sat down in a semi-circle. On each chair was a playing card (shocking!) between Ace and 8. This determined the order of our presentations (the cards were upside-down when we got in, so it was fair!) I got the number 8. (REALLY EMBARRASSINGLY, I found myself whistling the tune “you go and save the best for last” on the way to a tea break. I hope no-one noticed me, because it had just popped into my head when I saw my card, and I really, really, really wasn’t being an arrogant so-and-so). Our topics had to tie in with one of the nine criteria for selection. Mine was on Spiritual Disciplines (surprise, surprise!) and therefore fitted into ‘Spirituality’. I have to admit, when the first candidate stood up and started by saying, ‘My presentation is on ‘Spirituality”, my heart sank. I had visions of the next six people all doing spirituality too, but they didn’t. The presentations were really interesting. My brain was getting a bit mushy with all the stretching by the end of the process, but it was a great morning, discussing a whole range of things about which the candidates were really passionate. I really enjoyed this bit.
Each of the three interviews took three of the nine criteria, split equally into ‘Vocation; Education; Pastoral’. Each interview lasted around 50 minutes. There were 10 interview slots (two for advisers’ meetings, the other 8 for actual interviews). All of us had gaps between interviews, so there was plenty of time to wind down from one before getting our heads in gear for the next. (Though of course the advisers had to do 8 out of 10 interview slots in interviews, which must be a massive load!) I managed to go for walks between interviews, and wrote my response to the pastoral exercise. Although it wasn’t ‘due’ until Wednesday at 2:30, I emailed it on the Tuesday evening. This just made better sense of my interview times (I only had one on Tuesday, the other two were on the Wednesday). I figured it made sense to spread things out as much as possible.
In terms of preparation for the interviews, I’d copied the information on the nine criteria found here. I found it helpful then to work through this and write a sentence or two in response to each section. Here’s a little example:
A 2: Candidates’ calling should be confirmed by others
Evidence for this may be drawn from a candidate’s capacity to:
Show that those in their local church and those who know him/ her well are supportive and affirming of his/ her vocation
No one I know has been anything but supportive in affirming this vocation. Those without and within the church have been unanimous in their belief that this is my future. Of course, those outside of the church might not express it as a ‘calling’, per se, but those who know me well from my current church and from previous churches we have attended all support and affirm me in this calling. When I put on facebook that I was having a chat with the vicar about ordination, I was surprised by the number of friends who responded (all positively!)
Reflect on what it has meant to him/ her to have his/ her call affirmed by others
It is reassuring, challenging and scary. I don’t take the call lightly, and the idea that others have affirmed me in it suggest that it is definitely something I should pursue.
The bits in red are the bits I wrote. I felt that this meant I’d thought through a lot of things that might come up in each interview. One of the things I’d been told from my Diocesan Panel was that ‘sometimes the silences were uncomfortable’ in my interviews. I took this to mean that I needed to have less thinking time 🙂 This required more preparation! The interviews were individually tailored to each candidate. There therefore wasn’t much point discussing them with others in the hopes of finding out what we were going to be asked, because our interviews related to our Inventory, and our paperwork and references sent in advance of the panel.
I felt the interviews went well. The one I was ‘least happy with’ was probably the Pastoral one, which surprised me, because I love pastoral stuff.
The food was yummy (thanks Shallowford!) and it was good to get to know people a little at the mealtimes. It was made clear that we were being ‘watched’ the entire time, with the exception of the times of worship in the chapel. This did add a certain something to mealtimes 🙂
The times of worship were really great. They were taken by a range of the advisers. The unaccompanied singing was lovely (although I did feel that it might be a bit intimidating for those who aren’t mad keen on singing).
As a whole, the Panel reflected the breadth of the Church of England, which is one of the things I like about the church. A range of ages were represented by the candidates, as were a range of theologies and view points. I came away from the Panel content that I’d said and done what I could and should. I’m also content that the decision that the panel makes (well, the decision has already been made, I just don’t know what it is yet!) will be the right one for now. If it’s a recommendation for training, then we’ll get on with finding a venue. If it’s a no, then we’ll switch to Plan B.
In the meantime, please pray for all the candidates, as we wait for our ‘answer’ from panel and the feedback that comes with it. Pray, too, for the advisers. It’s a demanding few days for them, and I imagine may take some recovering from!
I’ll keep you posted 🙂
(Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll try to answer them. Equally, if you feel stuff is shared about others that shouldn’t be, tell me and I’ll edit!)
Here are some pictures from the BAP!